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Tough Times for Faith & Reason

A one-two punch in boxing might be a good analogy for what Catholic apologists are going through these days. The McCarrick scandal, and other diocesan abuse cases, combined with a sudden and historic revision to the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding capital punishment could have even the best apologist staggering like a stunned prize-fighter in trouble. From my experience, people are generally not receptive to Faith & Reason when emotions are running high and when so many unreasonable things are going on.

In the shadow of recent events, the following reflection from Father Donald Haggerty1 got me thinking about faith, reason, the devil and human intelligence….

“The devil is a great liar, as Jesus warns, which means that his primary target is our intelligence. His effort is to work his whisper within the quiet of the mind without detection, unknown until the damage is done…”

One of my sins, or at least an imperfection, is “stewing”. I’ll intentionally replay a negative situation over and over in my mind. It could be a specific thing someone said or did, or perhaps just a general annoyance. I’ll even fan the flames a bit with my own imagination to make it seem even worse. After reading Fr. Haggerty’s reflection, I’m left to wonder if it’s just me doing the thinking or is there some assistance from “his whisper within the quiet of the mind without detection, unknown until the damage is done” The devil certainly has plenty of extra fodder to work with in recent weeks to do some extra damage…and incidentally, be careful not to “stew” too much about recent events in the blogosphere. It may be just what the devil ordered.

“…One observation would seem undeniable. With fixed, persevering intent, he seeks to undermine a soul’s attraction for the attainability of truth. He wants to replace a hunger for spiritual truth with an acquiescence to permanent uncertainties and confusion…”

It used to be that there were Catholics that practiced the faith and followed Church teaching and lapsed Catholics that did not…and the lapsed Catholics knew that they were lapsed.  For many today, there seems to be little difference between the two; it doesn’t matter how often you go to Mass and just pick the teachings you (or your culture) like best. In our age of self-identification, if you can make your gender whatever you like, you can certainly make-up other “truths” and still self-identify as Catholic. Desire trumps facts; agenda undermines truth. Instead of conforming our minds to reality, we try to conform reality to our minds. In such a world there can be no certainty.

“…The truth of Christianity is of course the primary concentration of his attack. A soul’s conviction in faith is the ultimate prize he pursues. In subtle whispers, he poses objections, raises doubts, insinuates the likelihood of false, unreasonable assumptions. He exaggerates and distorts what is sometimes called the irrationality of religious belief. He has a special love for useless questioning that has no end point, for reflections that veer off into idiosyncratic byways and tangents…”

 

 

When dealing with a complex and ongoing technical problem where I work, we strive to keep problems in proper perspective. This is difficult as our customers and sales representatives tend to get too emotional; mixing facts with perceptions that creates a false reality. At the same time technicians and engineers can get lost in the arcane details of a problem and start engaging in “useless questioning that has no endpoint.

Fellow blogger Bob Kurland recently gave us some perspective on other evils committed by other Church leaders throughout history just as grave as today’s scandals, but many did not involve sex. Seems the medievals were not as obsessed with sex as we are today. How can such an institution survive for so long? Church history stands in testimony to its divinity as Bob’s post reminded us:

“The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.”

—Hilaire Belloc

To this, I would add (for believers)…what institution on Earth would Satan work harder to destroy than the Church? And yet, here we are; it’s another piece of evidence that the Church gets some divine help. Additionally, as Bob reminds us here. “Let’s not make a blanket assumption that the priesthood has been totally corrupted because of headlines engendered by a political opportunist.”

“ …His deceptions are often couched in commonsense logic. Other times he provokes hyperrational brooding and strained complications of argument. He loves to bait a soul with a remembrance of its native intelligence and a need to think independently, without reliance on any authority for truth other than a personal determination of truth…”

We all like to think of ourselves as independent thinkers, but people are like sheep and everyone eventually sits at the feet of a master. Who will whisper to your mind about what is real and what is true? Will you sit at the feet of Jesus through his Church or will it be some politician or political party, a celebrity or talk show host, a television evangelist, your favorite college professor, or will it simply be the always “infallible” majority? Who is your master? Whoever it is, be prepared to give an account one day for what you believe and what you say. “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak” (Mt 12:36).

In the meantime, we’re not likely to “reason” our way through this current crisis, so what are we to do? Many commentators have mentioned both prayer & fasting, and who should disagree, if that is what our Lord instructed his disciples to do after another kind of evil encounter they could not handle (see Mat 17:19-21); but it should be done with an intentionality to change ourselves for the better as well as the whole Church up to the highest levels, without forgetting the many victims in-between who have suffered so much for so long.

 

  1. Fr. Donald Haggerty, The Contemplative Hunger (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2016) p. 197.

Top photo from Wikimedia Commons

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Ben Butera

Ben Butera is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology and currently a Solutions Development Manager for a global 500 company. In 2010 he was certified as an instructor and Program Leader for his company’s initiative in analytical problem solving and decision making. In 2016 his book was published entitled "Faith with Good Reason: Finding Truth Through an Analytical Lens". Ben is also co-author of “Two Catholic Men and a Blog”; a blog about Catholic faith and reason. He is a religious education catechist, a husband, a father and lives with his loving wife and three children in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

10 Comments

  1. “The truth of Christianity is of course the primary concentration of his attack …”
    Great article. This quote struck me as an example of the greatest of redundancies; Truth is a person and it is that person, Christ, whom the diabolical is really attacking with his cunning deceit.

  2. Some great thinkers place the problem in their minds before sleep. They keep a pad and pencil at their nightstand and wake with the answer to their question. My dream consisted of my life always being lost and disoriented. At the end of the dream I found a little leather bag. Inside the bag at the bottom I found many many Miraculous Medals.

  3. Rodin’s “Gates of Hell” just might be the appropriate metaphor.

    Reason can’t cover the problems. Both the DP revision (reverses Bible verses and 2,000 years of Teaching) and the hierarchy’s fell responses to hundreds of homosexual priest-rapists were illogical, irrational and filled with logical fallacies; plus they were essentially EVIL. It has to be said.

    Jesus could not drive out all demons. He said that some required prayer and fasting. We need to pray in truth and spirit.

    Our parish will recite the Prayer to St. Michael after each sermon. We will say a public Rosary next Saturday with the Sorrowful Mysteries.

  4. “Jesus could not drive out all demons.”
    Jesus could drive out all demons. The Apostles had some trouble driving out demons. Our Lady could drive out all demons. St. Joseph is called the “Terror of demons”

  5. I believe that Rodin’s The Thinker sits atop of Rodin’s Gates of Hell. When it gets too tough, and it is exhausting for me, anyway, I place it back in God’s hand’s. God made them. God will take care of them.

  6. The predator priests, & those in the Church hierarchy who are enablers, are the devils who are attacking the Church & destroying the flock. Nothing less than defrocking & jail time will absolve these grievous damnable evils.

  7. The Church did do e without scholastic for al.let a thousand years for those of us who do my do syllogism a and the like we’ll just c continue to do fine, with prayer, sacraments and the teaching of the Church without try to explain the inexplicable.

  8. Dr Khouri,
    Even the earliest Christians (like St. Paul) had to use philosophy and logic as common ground to deal with gentiles like the Romans and Greeks; to make the church “catholic” which means “universal”. What other religion did this in history? Just because we cannot fully explain something does not mean it cannot be reasoned. I wrote a whole book about this topic.
    https://www.amazon.com/Faith-Good-Reason-Finding-Analytical/dp/0989969657/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474663929&sr=8-1&keywords=9780989969659

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